Simple Tactics for Waist Management
By Clark Peters
My prior Health Nut articles for VIE – People + Places have touched on America’s issues with obesity. Two-thirds of the country is over-weight and one-third of those (approximately sixty million people) are severely obese. Obesity is closely correlated with type 2 diabetes—formerly called adult-onset diabetes until a significant percentage of our youth started to show signs of the disease. Diabetes is no trivial matter! Some forty million Americans currently have this disease, and these numbers are expected to triple over the next two decades! It is hard to imagine the stress and expense it will cause whatever health system and insurance coverage we have in place then. Diabetes, in its latter phases, leads to:
- Vision loss
- Amputation of extremities
- Increased susceptibility to the major killers, e.g., heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, etc.
- Ultimately, left unchecked, the disease itself is fatal
But, the underlying premise of the prior VIE articles is that changing lifestyle as suggested will help prevent this disease and, if rigidly adhered to, can reverse it. We have discussed the glucose spikes and crashes that lead to weight gain and to insulin resistance, which in turn, leads to diabetes. Clearly, eating properly and maintaining a healthy weight is key!
The basics are straightforward. Eating to keep stable blood sugar levels is very important, but eating too much of even good nutrition will offset the improvement in food. Over time, if calories in (food) equal calories out (metabolism), no weight change will occur. To lose weight, a net expenditure of calories in excess of those taken in must occur. An analogy might be to consider your body as a house and your metabolism (movement/heart rate) as the furnace. All our modern conveniences are targeted at making life easier, i.e., using fewer calories. Any time you are sitting at a computer, watching TV, driving, or otherwise “vegging out,” your furnace is basically only using the pilot light. Some calories are burned even when asleep, but we are interested in changing the equation so that you are burning up more, hopefully significantly more, calories than usual. That means, quite simply, more activity—movement!
Clearly, eating properly and maintaining a healthy weight is key!
Hopefully, you have made aerobic exercise an integral part of each week. Any repetitive motion that raises your heart rate is great. A prior article (VIE’s Spring 2010 issue) suggested walking with heavy hands as particularly effective, but jogging, cycling, or swimming, and spin, step, yoga, or Zumba classes, and so on, are all good for the basis of your calorie expenditure. Three to five sessions per week is optimal.
If you are exercising regularly and the weight is stubbornly hanging around, clearly the equation must be changed—either eat fewer calories or increase calories burned. Happily, small changes in either will, over time (be patient), pay handsome dividends. Let’s discuss a few simple ways to burn more calories each day. These suggestions are not huge in themselves but cumulatively, again, over time, become part of your normal behavior and add up to surprising increases in calories expended each week.
- Distance to objective—in getting from point A to point B, try making the task harder (read: burning more calories) rather than easier. Example: when driving to the grocery store, bank, airport, retail shop, etc., park as far from the entrance as possible and walk.
- For flights of stairs less than five floors (more as you get in shape), walk or jog up/down the stairs instead of using the elevator.
- If you have a moderate lawn, buy a push mower (remember them; they still can be found—and they are cheap!) and mow your lawn rather than sitting on a power mower.
- Convince your spouse to increase the frequency of sex—while this activity does not burn up huge numbers of calories (depending on creativity), it clearly is one of the more enjoyable calorie-burning exercises.
- At the airport, explore the terminal(s). Avoid escalators or moving passenger walkways. If you are pressed for time and must use these, at least proceed briskly. Avoid the usual practice of going to your gate, getting a cinnamon bun, and sitting while waiting for your flight.
- Or, dance!—another fun activity you can do with your significant other. With the right attitude, learning to ballroom dance can be fun for the relationship, but any dancing that gets you moving is a bonus.
Well, you get the idea. The above list is far from comprehensive, and I encourage you to add your ideas to these. Let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you come up with ideas you’d be willing to share—perhaps we can build a huge list to choose from for all readers.
I emphasize the scale less because muscle weighs more than fat and it is possible, by eating and exercising properly, to put on enough lean body mass (muscle, bone, ligament, organ enhancement—in other words, the good stuff!) to offset fat loss. Rather than obsessing about what your bathroom scale shows, notice how loose your clothes start to feel and especially how your belt size goes down. These two indicators are much better measures of health and body composition than a few pounds on the scale.
I mention waist size for a good reason. Research statistics show that when your waist exceeds a certain size—forty inches for men and thirty-five inches for women—serious health issues ensue. This is because the excess fat around your waist is active fat! Called visceral fat, it constantly sheds toxins and impurities. So, the more you have, the greater the capacity for toxins and the greater the amount expressed. This process is very wearing on your immune system, which has to deal with the onslaught. Chronic inflammation—the primary cause of most of the major diseases—ensues and will continue to threaten your health until you reduce or eliminate this visceral weight. But, fat is a systemic problem, i.e., you can’t spot reduce. Losing fat will occur in reverse order of appearance. So, again, it all boils down to losing weight overall.
TACTICS TO REDUCE INTAKE
If you are exercising regularly and add the calorie burners suggested above, you are doing about all that is possible for the expenditure side of the equation, short of increasing the amount of exercise done weekly. There are, however, a few simple hints to reduce the intake side.
- Hydration: You must stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration often presents as hunger since the body knows there is at least a little moisture in food. Indeed, a glass of water prior to any meal ensures that your stomach is partially full, and the rehydration may lessen your hunger and food intake.
Indeed, a glass of water prior to any meal ensures that your stomach is partially full, and the rehydration may lessen your hunger and food intake.
- Elimination: Regularity is another good way to ensure that food wastes and toxins aren’t hanging around. At least one good bowel movement daily is required for health and weight control. Since the last thing the body does before a bowel movement is recapture the water in your colon (thus firming your stool), again, staying hydrated will prevent the problems of “rabbit pellets” or “concrete” (constipation). Modern food offerings are also typically refined to the point where they have very little or no fiber content. Fiber is key to regularity. A simple solution is to find a canister of psyllium husk granules and add a tablespoon to one or more of your daily meals. This is the key ingredient in Metamucil, but without all the additives, coloring, flavors, and our old friend, sugar. I add it to smoothies or my breakfast pudding, but adding it to cereal or even a glass of water gets the job done. Most supermarkets carry an acceptable source. The product is also available in pill form, but this requires visiting a health food store or going online to acquire.
- Snacks: Even mild hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can sabotage a successful weight management program. Your body wants a quick glucose bump. The secret is not to indulge in the high-glycemic junk offerings. Rather, a packet of water-packed tuna, or a hard-boiled egg or two, or a handful of raw nuts and raisins, gets the job done and holds your blood sugar level until the next meal.
The messages here are, you would hopefully agree, fairly straightforward.
- Move! Find ways to move more (even a little more) every day.
- Drink more water: whatever more is for you. More water—especially if it replaces sodas, coffee or alcohol—is a vast improvement and a large reduction in calories.
- Eat less: again whatever less is for you.
I am not suggesting draconian changes here; little changes add up! If you make the changes suggested herein, you may burn only fifty calories more per day. It doesn’t sound like much but adds up to five-plus pounds per year. Of course, the more serious you get, the higher the calorie burn and potential weight loss/waist reduction. But, there is the danger of burning out—take it slow and make a few of these suggestions habitual. Then, add more over time. You will, I promise, be astonished at how simple it is and how effective it can be.
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The Health Nut
Clark Peters has spent much of his time since his retirement in 1997 researching health and longevity. His purpose in writing these columns is to share his findings with readers in plain English and assist them in making accurate and informed lifestyle choices. The columns are based on the premise that we all want to live a long, vigorous life and are striving to make healthy choices.
While Mr. Peters believes these recommendations will result in better health and longevity for almost everyone, the reader is advised to consult with his or her physician before making any major lifestyle changes. You may e-mail Mr. Peters at: email@example.com.